|Accused Priest Set to Speak out
By Natalie Neysa Alund
January 21, 2009
MANATEE — A local priest being investigated by the Catholic church for alleged sexual misconduct more than a decade ago will speak out on his own behalf this afternoon.
Rev. Jean Ronald Joseph, a priest at St. Bernard Catholic Church in Holmes Beach, is set to talk about the allegations at 1:30 p.m. at Holmes Beach City Hall on Marina Drive, said his attorney, John Fleck.
The reported molestation occurred in 1993 between a minor and Joseph when Joseph was assigned to St. Frances Xavier Catholic Church in Fort Myers, said Adela Gonzales White, communications director with the Diocese of Venice.
The diocese announced its investigation late last month and has not released the minor’s age or gender nor give any specifics on the allegations.
It only noted that Joseph denies the allegation and “strenuously maintains his innocence.”
Diocese Chancellor Volodymyr Smeryk said that when the allegations arose Joseph immediately removed himself from performing his duties.
If the allegations prove true and if the child was younger than 12 at the time of the molestation, Joseph could be criminally prosecuted.
Under the law, there is no statute of limitations in cases of capital sexual battery, which involve a victim younger than 12.
If the victim was 12 or older during the abuse, there is a statute of limitations — four years — under the law.
Joseph, who leads Haitian ministries in Manatee and Sarasota counties, was also formerly assigned to St. Joseph Catholic Church in Bradenton.
Joseph, 44, was ordained as a priest in Florida in October 1993, according to the diocese.
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